THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET is quite simply the best historical novel I have read in years, Tolstoyan in its scope and moral perception, yet finely focused on a very particular place and time. The place: Dejima, a Dutch trading post on a man-made island in Nagasaki harbor that was for two centuries Japan’s only window on the outside world. The time: a single year, 1799-1800, although here Mitchell takes the liberties of a novelist, compressing the events of a decade, including the decline of the Dutch East India Company and Napoleon’s annexation of Holland, into a mere twelve months. He plays smaller tricks with time throughout the novel, actually, alternating between the Japanese calendar and the Gregorian one, then jumping forwards and backwards between chapters. The effect is to heighten the picture of two hermetic worlds removed from the normal course of history.
August 28, 2010
Â· Judi Clark Â· 4 Comments
Tags: David Mitchell, Real Event Fiction, Time Period Fiction Â· Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Commonwealth Prize, Facing History, Japan, Literary, y Award Winning Author
While David Mitchell is undoubtedly a talented writer, and ideas abound in the centuries-spanning, globe-trotting narratives that make up CLOUD ATLAS, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed with this book. Of course, it’s entirely possible my disappointment was born from high expectations: Mitchell has been lauded as the best of a generation, and before the recent release of THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, CLOUD ATLAS was widely trumpeted as his best book. And whileCLOUD ATLAS is a highly-entertaining smorgasbord of styles â€“ a little something for everyone â€“ it is also a post-modern comment on the ontological status of narrative that doesn’t fully come off.
This is a modern, woolly mastodon of a book, a book with tusks and chewing teeth, a throwback to the most towering storytelling in literary history. But it is also a Seraph, a three-paired-winged novel that is full of zeal and respect, humility and ethereal beauty, an airborne creature that gave me five days in heaven. And, it is a sea serpent, because it lifted itself up like a column and it grabbed and swallowed me. Whole.
June 30, 2010
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 18th-Century, David Mitchell, Real Event Fiction, Time Period Fiction Â· Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Commonwealth Prize, Facing History, Japan, Literary, y Award Winning Author